Return to the Churches.
After a long period of decline during the Depression, American churches experienced a revival—unique among the belligerents—following World War II. Church membership skyrocketed, and thousands of new congregations were formed. About 43 percent of the public attended church before the war; by 1950 more than 55 percent were members of religious groups, a figure that would increase to 69 percent by the end of the 1950s. Pollsters in 1947 revealed that the public held religious leaders in greater esteem than political figures and businessmen. By 1950 Americans spent an astonishing $409 million to fund church construction. Three hundred thousand new members joined the Southern Baptists from 1945 to 1949, and Catholics baptized 1 million infants a year. This amazing return to the churches was in part due to the experience of war, but it was also a function of the social pressures present in the age of affluence that arose from the war. It was the dominant characteristic of American religion during the decade.
The largest faith in the United States, Protestantism was represented by more than 250 denominations. The largest Protestant body was the Methodist Church, with 8 million members and 40,000 churches. With an annual budget of nearly $200 million, the Methodists operated 77 colleges and...
(The entire section is 1454 words.)
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